Saturday September 17, 2010 Erin at Joint Base Balad (JBB)
WOW! What a great day! We woke up after a good night's rest and went to the DFAC for some grub before heading over to the huge pool (which included a 24ft high diving board) for a meet and greet. Amy and I actually ran into someone who went to the same high school as us! What a small world. Next we were lucky enough to see all the mechanics that fix the MRAP's (Mine Resistant Armor Protected). Most of them are actually contracted civilians who have been here for around 3 years. You never really think about the 'ins and outs' that people do while at war.
What a privilege to meet these guys! After seeing how the vehicles work we went for a ride in one! I got to sit up front while we drove along the east side of the base and saw the 'houses' (little clay huts) the insurgents live in right outside the wire…I mean RIGHT outside the wire. The soldier driving told me they can see them watching us and they will throw mortars over. CRAZY! Anyway, the MRAP's are pretty legit, weighing in at 73,500 pounds and protecting our men and women!
We then headed over to the hospital and saw where all the wounded soldiers go. Actually, the hospital here is the best hospital we have in the entire country of Iraq. If the soldiers come there alive, they have a 96% survival rate which is very high. 100% of the soldiers who go into surgery have made it out safe and sound though! We were able to visit some of the soldiers who were in the hospital and one of them was actually shot in the head but his helmet stopped it from completely penetrating. We saw the helmet! WOAH! God bless him!
We also learned about the Medical Black Hawks and the men that operate them. These guys fly to where the wounded are, pick them up and bring them here through 'Hero's Highway'. Hero's Hwy is a tent that has an American flag on the underside of the roof so every soldier that comes in see's it and knows they are safe. LOVE the American flag!
Next we had a show in the MWR East which was a pretty good turnout of roughly 70 soldiers. They are definitely an awesome audience. Rowdy, loud and appreciative! I will say that round two this evening went a bit more smoothly. We performed in a hanger for a smaller audience of about 30 people. Right in front of an F16! The Colonel of the crew we performed for told us the crew had been down in the dumps and we brought more smiles to their faces then he has seen in a very long while. That is what we are here for and it touched my heart!
Speaking of F16's; we were briefed on how they work by the awesome Air Force soldiers of JBB. They are the most widely used military aircraft in the world actually. When they take off they use over 600 gallons of fuel and there are GPS missiles they use for 'Fire and Forget' missions (the pilot fires them at the target and is able to forget about them because the GPS follows the target until it hits). Can you believe the cameras on the F16 can see up to 160 miles away!! Also, every time a pilot ejects from the F16 in an emergency, they lose ½" from their height. WOAH!
After a long and fulfilled day I was able to reflect for a little while. The sacrifices the soldiers make for our country are so deep; not enough people know and understand the extent to which they give. I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and I thank ALL the men and women who devote so much of themselves for us.